Saturday, February 12, 2005
Matt is shocked that I was not as taken back by this story of the Special Removal Unit as Matt was. Partly, it's a function of apparently having known about this story for better than a year and partly because I'm aware of the other side of the story which goes as follows:
Arar (Arer) is traveling from Tunisia to Canada and stops over in the US. Arar's name pops up on the computer as he was put on a watchlist several years ago based on information passed along to us from Canada:
The name of Ottawa software engineer Maher Arar name was entered on a U.S. border watch list because of intelligence that came originally from Canada, U.S. sources say.
Mr. Arar, who was deported from New York last year to Syria, where he was tortured, was unknown to U.S. law-enforcement agencies until the RCMP passed his name along as a terrorist suspect, the U.S. sources said Friday.
The information passed along is the following: Arar (a former employee of Mathworks - a fact not relevant to the story, but as a big Matlab fan, I find it interesting) has ties to Abdullah Almalki and is suspected of being part of a Canadian al Qaeda ring. Almalki (who earlier had been arrested by the Syrians after the Canadians watchlisted him) and Arar had both been implicated by Ahmad Abou El-Maati.
Now for a quick discursion into the baddies here.
El-Maati's brother Amer had previously been put on a watch list when "border guards found a map of Ottawa marking government buildings and nuclear research facilities [in his truck]." (Note that El-Matti's employer has claimed the map belonged to another driver but this still doesn't explain why those items were marked. Recall the story of the ring broken up in Canada that appears to have been planning attacks on a Canadian nuclear power plant - something that is disputed by activist groups).
Ahmad El-Maati's name turned up in documents (you now have to buy the original article, but google cached it - God bless google) in a Kabul safehouse that noted El-Maati had just gotten his Canadian citizenship. Coupled with his brother's border incident (and some stuff I'll mention in a moment), El-Maati was most likely involved planning some very bad things and got watch listed by the US and Canada.
Ahmad El-Maati then got picked up by the Syrians in Damascus where he named names, in particular Arer and Abdullah Almalki. Abdullah Almalki also had some activities in his background that look quite bad when put in context of El-Maati.
Abdullah Almalki had travelled to Pakistan in the early 1990s to work in the Islamic charity camps of Ahmed Said Khadr. The Khadr's appear to have been rather nasty folk. While Khadr maintained an apparently upfront charity (other than the thousands of dollars it funneled to al Qaeda), Khadr directied its charity workers various terrorist training camps. An interesting aside,
Among the Canadians who attended the camps were Amer and Ahmad El-Maati of Toronto, a Vancouver man he knew as Amer, who was killed in a 1998 U.S. missile strike, and a Canadian named Idriss, who was arrested for plotting to blow up an embassy in Azerbaijan, Mr. [Abdurrah - one of Ahmed's sons] Khadr testified.Ahmed Said Khadr had a long standing relationship with Bin Laden (Bin Laden attended the wedding of Khadr's daughter Zaynab and the Khadr family attended the wedding of Bin Laden's son Muhamad). Omar Khadr (Ahmed Said Khadr's youngest son) was picked up on the battlefield of Afghanistan.
To beat a dead horse, the conclusion that Khadr was a terrorist running a terrorist camp seems all the more likely in light of his death. Khadr died in the big firefight in Warzistan - the one where we thought Bin Laden was at. After his death, Khadr's family made statements along the lines of:
"We believe dying by the hand of your enemy because you believe in… you're doing it in the way of Allah, that it's the best way to die," Zaynab told CBC. "My father had always wished that he would be killed… he would be killed for the sake of Allah. I remember when we were very young he would say, if you guys love me, pray for me that I get jihaded, which is killed."Abdurrah cut to the chase when he said: "We are an al Qaeda family."
So when Abdullah Almalkiacknowledges that he travelled to Pakistan in the early 1990s (for about a decade) to work in the Islamic charity camps of Ahmed Said Khadr, it's pretty safe to assume that Almalki is a terrorist as well. In particular, I believe the authorities were also interested in Almalki for funneling computer equipment to the Taliban/al Qaeda.
Quick summary of known bad dudes:
Said Khadr: Acknowledged long time Bin Laden associate, gave financial aid to al Qaeda, sent charity workers and his sons to train in the Afghanistan terrorist camps, died with a gun in his hand fighting the Islamist fight, scion of an al Qaeda family.
El-Maati: trained in terrorist camps with Khadr's kids, documents linking El-Maati to al Qaeda discovered in a safe house in Afghanistan, brother stopped on US border with maps marking location of Canadian government and nuclear facilities.
Abdullah Almalki: worked in Said Khadr's "charity" camp for about a decade, probably funneling computers to the Taliban. Picked up in Damascus.
Now back to Arar.
Recall that Arar was fingered by both Almalki and El-Maati (picked up first) for involvement involvement in a plot to blow up Canadian government buildings and nuclear installations. How El-Maati came to finger Arar is rather curious as Arar doesn't appear to have been on anyone's radar before El-Maati brought him up and Arar and El-Maati deny knowing each other. El-Maati also fingered Almalki.
Almalki, however, had a history with Arar. Almalki's and Arar's families had been long acquaintances of each other beginning when they moved from Syria at the same time. Contact between the families continued through the present day with Abdullah Almalki cosigning Arar's lease and with documented meetings in restaurants. When Arar denied having anything other than a casual relationship with Almalki, the US investigators (I believe rightly) assumed Arar was lying to them. According to David Warren (I have no corroboration of the flight information)
His international movements (to Pakistan and possibly Afghanistan, with indirect flight routes through Tunisia) were suspicious, and he met under suspicious circumstances with Abdullah Almalki (a fellow computer expert being tracked as a supplier of hardware and software into Talibani Afghanistan, and as a link to financing through a Pakistani "charity"), as well as with others unnamed. Mr. Arar left Canada suddenly, and his family cleared house and moved, in both cases immediately after Canadian security searched or interviewed a colleague; then seemed to be returning to Canada only after the dust had settled.So with this info and Mr Arar's selective memory of Almalki, the INS agents were quite suspicious. Not having enough to actually hold him but believing him to be a part of a conspiracy with El-Maati and Almalki, they looked to deport Arar.
The US government then asks the Canadian government if it's ok to deport Arar:
"However, U.S. government officials we spoke to say they told Canadian intelligence that they were sending Arar to Syria – and the Canadians signed off on the decision."The US government then double checks with Syria to make certain that Arar won't be tortured, a fear as we list Syria as a torturing state:
Before deporting Arar to Syria, American officials involved in the case told 60 Minutes II they had obtained assurances from the Syrian government that Arar would not be tortured –- that he would “be treated humanely”So with the blessing of the Canadian government and assurances from Syria, the suspicious dual Canadian-Syrian citizen is packed off to Syria (by way of Jordan) where Arer says he was tortured (like Warren, there's no corroborating source of info here, but it seems plausible in Syria).
Flash forward to the present day and Arar currently has lawsuits filed against Syria, Canada, and the US.
In light of this knowledege, I left the following in the comments today:
While Aher may or may not have been detained erroneously (and if he was detained erroneously, then he deserves every dollar he can get out of the government), in general I don't get too worked up about deporting Syrian citizens back to Syria...(admittedly he was dual Canadian-Syrian - but they give out dual Canadian citizenship like candy)To which Matt replied:
Consider the general case where there is a foreign national who we feel is a threat. Can we not deport them? Can we only deport those that come from European countries? Or do we just pick them up and hold on to them indefinitely?
Maybe we can hold them in Guantanamo... There doesn't seem to be any public outcry over that...
Give me a break. Aher left Syria when he was a teenager. He'd lived in Canada for twenty years. He went to McGill! The Syrian government didn't want him; they didn't give a damn about him. We sent him there so that he could be tortured. We didn't "deport" him. We sent him to Syria for torture and interrogation. Maybe you think that's the right thing to do, but at least defend what we're actually doing: disappearing people and giving them to tinpot dictatorships to be tortured.Now reponding to these questions in turn:
If you'd like to defend *that*, be my guest.
And "he deserves every dollar he can get out of the government?" How much would you want, to spend a year being tortured, honest-to-god tortured, by Syrians? How much could I pay you to do that? You say these things but I don't think you believe them. I hope you don't, anyway. But look, it's not all about Aher, it's about a pattern. Did you read the whole article? Why are you defending this?
Give me a break. Aher left Syria when he was a teenager. He'd lived in Canada for twenty years. He went to McGill!
And the 9/11 hijackers attended universities and grew up in Europe. Almalki who I am pretty damn certain is a terrorist left Syria at the same time. Ultimately these points are inconsequential to the facts of the case.
The Syrian government didn't want him; they didn't give a damn about him. We sent him there so that he could be tortured. We didn't "deport" him. We sent him to Syria for torture and interrogation.
I concur on the Syrian government not wanting him. No government wants to have to deal with a suspected terrorist with flimsy evidence. We didn't want him and Canada didn't want him. That's why we got rid of Arar and why he went to Syria (who was apparently more ambivalent). And as best as I can ascertain, no, we did not send him to Syria for torture. In fact, according to that noted Bush adminstration sympathizer 60 Minutes II, we got assurances from Syria that Arer wouldn't get tortured.
And "he deserves every dollar he can get out of the government?" How much would you want, to spend a year being tortured, honest-to-god tortured, by Syrians? How much could I pay you to do that? You say these things but I don't think you believe them. I hope you don't, anyway.
Financial recompensension for wrongdoing has a long and proud history and is ultimately the best we can do for Arar as we can't undo what was done. Why are the abused suing the Catholic church? Should we not hope that they get every dollar they can get out of the Church? Should we not hope that the Goldmans get every penny they can out of O.J.?
Really, I don't understand this indignation over my statement, "if he was detained erroneously, then he deserves every dollar he can get out of the government."
But look, it's not all about Aher, it's about a pattern. Did you read the whole article? Why are you defending this?
Yes, I did. However, I disagree on the interpretation of the facts of virtually all of the article and thus disagree with the assessment of a pattern.
Why are you defending this?
1) Cause the portion on Arer is the only coherent part of the New Yorker piece
2) I don't have a problem with rendition unless it's done for torture or the person is wrongly detained (both of which are alleged in Arer's case).
Specifically I feel that deporting suspected terrorists is the way to go if we only have weak evidence against them and I don't think we should limit our deportions to Europe.